Ford v. Ford Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Petitioner, George Benjamin Ford, Jr. asserts that Respondent, Pearl Rose Ford is not entitled to obtain property under their mother’s will even though she was insane at the time she murdered her mother.

Facts of the case

Question

Can an individual who kills another share in the distribution of the decedent’s estate when the individual was insane at the time of the killing?

Answer

Yes. Affirmed. The slayer’s rule does not apply in the context of a killing committed by an insane individual because for a homicide to be felonious in the context of the rule it must be one for which the killer is criminally responsible under Maryland’s criminal insanity test. Even though a killing may be intentional if it is not felonious the rule does not apply and the individual may share in the distribution of the estate.

Conclusion

The court held that the slayer’s rule, which precluded a killer from being enriched by the reason of his or her criminal conduct, did not operate to preclude the killer from inheriting under the will of her mother. The court determined that the slayer’s rule was not applicable where the killer was not criminally responsible for her conduct at the time she committed the homicide. Although the court reached the same conclusion that the circuit court did, it disagreed with the circuit court’s reasoning. The court found that permitting the killer to share in the distribution of her victim’s assets was consistent with the principles of equity.

  • Case Brief: 1962
  • Petitioner: Ford
  • Respondent: Ford
  • Decided by: Warren Court

Citation: 371 US 187 (1962)
Argued: Nov 15, 1962
Decided: Dec 10, 1962